Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) has demanded the immediate release of a report from a commission of inquiry set up early 2019 to investigate killings of people with albinism (PWAs).
But Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani says the report is almost ready and will be released soon.
Following a series of attacks on people with albinism, including brutal murders, President Peter Mutharika instituted a commission of inquiry, headed by retired judge Robert Chinangwa, which came into effect on March 5 2019 to investigate the killings and produce a report by April 30 2019.
However, the report is yet to be released and government has remained silent on the issue despite Apam issuing a 30-day ultimatum that expired on January 6.
The development has since angered Apam and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) who have demanded the release of the report for stakeholders to work on the recommendations and address the brutal attacks.
Apam president Ian Simbota in an interview yesterday said government lacks seriousness in tackling killings of people with albinism.
He said the association has been following up on the report but to no avail.
Said Simbota: “One of the commissioners actually told us [Apam officials] that they have not been meeting and there is no report to make. The inquiry is important but this government is not treating this as a serious matter and we are very worried.
“Our other fear is that should the Constitutional Court order a rerun, the killings may resurface because a United Nations [UN] report shows that they are associated with elections and success. So it is important that we get to the bottom of this and get rid of the market.”
He said Apam is also concerned that people who have information about killings of people with albinism are being eliminated or threatened.
“Spies are also being planted in Apam and we don’t feel safe. So, we want government to be serious for once and deal with the issue,” said Simbota.
He has since given government up to January 15 2020 to release the report, failing which the association will come up with the next course of action.
On his part, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo said government inquiries have become a means of silencing serious issues. He said killings of people with albinism is a serious issue and government should stop taking Malawians for granted.
“It seems the President just wanted to score political points by instituting a commission that could not deliver. Of course from the start we questioned the commission that had been put in place. We felt it lacked capacity and it wasn’t independent,” he said.
Mtambo said despite that, HRDC still expects a report from the commission.
“The report was supposed to be ready by April. Then they asked for a two-month extension but this is now 2020 and the report is not yet out. Apart from the issue being a serious one, they are also using taxpayers money. Lives are involved and government cannot continue to take Malawians for granted. We want the report now,” he stressed.
Presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani when contacted yesterday said the only information he had was that the commission had asked for an extension as it still had more work to do.
Botomani, without stating the exact date, said the report would be released soon.
When asked what has caused the delay, the government spokesperson said there were various factors which affected the process.
In April 2019, the commission’s secretary Brenda Vokhiwa told The Nation that the commission had done 70 percent of the work and that it needed more time for its members to travel to Tanzania and Mozambique for further investigations.
Both Chinangwa and Vokhiwa have since kept mum on the progress of the investigations.
When contacted, one of the commissioners George Jobe referred the matter to Chinangwa, saying he was the one mandated to speak for the commission. But Chinangwa did not pick his phone when called several times.
Since November 2014, over 150 crimes against people with albinism have been reported in Malawi, including 25 murders and over 10 people missing, according to Apam.
In February 2019, UN human rights experts expressed fear that the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections would further aggravate the situation for PWAs.
Reads the UN report: “Killings and attacks often spike during election periods because of false beliefs that their body parts can bring good luck and political power when used in witchcraft-related rituals.” Mutharika appointed the commission of inquiry two days before Apam went on the street to protest against their killings and to demand immediate solutions from the President.